Being diagnosed with dementia can be a devastating experience, but it doesn’t mean that life has to completely change. Many individuals with dementia can continue to live well, staying independent and engaging in activities that bring them joy. However, it is important to recognize the role that good eyesight plays in maintaining a high quality of life for those with dementia.
Research has shown that a majority of activities that individuals with dementia enjoy are visual in nature, such as gardening, art classes, playing musical instruments, and spending time with family. Good eyesight allows them to fully participate in these activities. In addition, visual memory aids like calendars and smartphone apps can support memory and organization for individuals with dementia.
Unfortunately, people with dementia are more likely to experience preventable sight loss compared to those without dementia. Routine eye examinations, which are available under Medicare to Australians over the age of 65, can identify major eye diseases and ensure proper eye health. Early detection of eye problems allows for prompt intervention and preservation of vision.
One study found that one in three individuals living with dementia had some form of visual impairment, and a simple glasses update was all that was needed to restore sight for nearly half of these individuals. However, many individuals with dementia do not receive the routine eye care they need.
Barriers to accessing eye care for people with dementia include a lack of optometrists who are knowledgeable about dementia, limited training on adapting eye tests for individuals with cognitive impairments, and a lack of awareness on the part of individuals and their caregivers about the importance of informing the optometrist about the dementia diagnosis.
To address these barriers, efforts are being made to make dementia-friendly eye care more accessible. Training courses are being developed to educate optometrists on providing dementia-friendly eye care, and information booklets are available for individuals with dementia and their caregivers to better understand the importance of eye tests and eye care at home.
It is crucial to prioritize the visual health of individuals living with dementia to ensure that they can continue to engage in activities they enjoy and maintain a high quality of life.
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